Group aims to balance development, nature in Tri-Cities

Group aims to balance development, nature in Tri-Cities

By John Trumbo, Herald staff writer

A new private-public partnership wants to help preserve the ridges and rivers of the Tri-Cities.

“I’m a lifelong resident. There’s great urgency. Just look around and see what’s left,” said Scott Woodward, who helped found the Ridges to Rivers Open Space Network six months ago.

The group’s vision is to have a network of natural features and open spaces that complement residential and commercial development, he said.

“We need common ideas, maps and vision,” said Woodward, whose passion about saving natural features also led to the creation of the nonprofit Tapteal Greenway Association a decade ago and the recent preservation of the Amon Creek Natural Basin in Richland.

“We need a regional plan,” Woodward said.

That might not mean a continuous trail system looping around the through the Tri-Cities to include major features such as Badger Mountain, the Chamna Natural Preserve and bike and walking trails that loop out to Sacagawea Park. But it does mean creating public awareness about the importance of open space, he said.

“We want people to see a lot of things in a natural state,” Woodward said.

The group is a partnership of private and government agencies involving the cities of Pasco, Richland, West Richland, Benton and Franklin counties, the National Park Service, Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau, Tapteal Greenway Association, Lower Columbia Basin Audubon Society and Friends of Badger Mountain. Other entities include the Community Health Alliance, Fun Fit and over Fifty, Open Space Coalition of Benton and Franklin counties and the Columbia Basin chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society.

Woodward hopes to add Kennewick and the Benton Franklin Council of Governments by the end of September after making presentations to those governing bodies.

“We want to make this a regionwide idea. This is the time to ask the questions,” Woodward said.

Woodward also said the Ridges to Rivers group will present its vision and goals at a joint meeting of Benton and Franklin counties and parks staffs from Kennewick, Pasco, Richland and West Richland on Sept. 11.

Once all of the public agencies and government officials have been informed about what the Ridges to Rivers group wants, the next step will be a series of meetings to obtain public input. No dates have been set for those meetings.

Woodward said the public comments will help shape the comprehensive plan for open spaces in the Tri-Cities.

“This is pretty ambitious. It’s the biggest thing we’ve ever attempted,” Woodward said.

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